Truly Impressed or Smoke Screen?
At this time last year, it wasn’t a secret the Buccaneers needed a running back. Doug Martin was let go after not being able to have the same production he had in 2015. Since then, the Bucs haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher. In the 2018 NFL draft, the Buccaneers selected running back Ronald Jones II with the 38th pick. The former Trojan had a lot of hype around him. His college tape was very impressive. He was expected to run a sub-4.5 40 time, but during his sprint he pulled his hamstring, resulting in him running a 4.65. He bounced back in his pro day running a 4.48. During last year’s season, Jones barely saw any game time reps. Starting the season on the team’s game day inactive roster, he didn’t see the field until week 4. He ended up finishing the season with just 23 carries and 44 rushing yards (yikes). However, running back Peyton Barber was able to pick up 871 yards on the ground on 234 carries, giving him a 3.7 yards per carry. Mediocre numbers, but many have put the blame on the coaching and scheme. Regardless, Barber has come a long way from being an undrafted free agent in 2016. And it’s looking like Jones is going to have similar work to do.
In comes head coach Bruce Arians. The coach has already addressed the running back situation, praising both Barber and Jones. “Not every back’s going to be a home run hitter. [Barber] gets those 10, 15-yard runs, breaking tackles, power runner, punishing runner. When we’re building something, that’s the kind I want to build around.” and also stating “I’m really anxious to get on the field with all our guys, but [Jones] especially, to see how much he can do of what we did in Arizona.” Coming from a two time Coach of the Year winner, Arians gives us no reason to doubt him. If anyone knows how to evaluate a players talent and ability, it’s him. But who is to say that is not a smoke screen? There is probably one running back in this years’ draft that will be going in round one. That running back being Alabama’s Josh Jacobs.
Josh Jacobs fits what Arians did in Arizona. His vision when the ball is in his hands is phenomenal. His eyes are very active and he is able to find the narrow holes at the line of scrimmage and finish his run with great power. But how about his receiving ability? Arians is known to design pass plays to target the running back, i.e. David Johnson. Jacobs showed flashes of being able to make plays through the air, unfortunately, Alabama didn’t use him in the passing game enough to showcase what he could potentially accomplish at the professional level. Over his three year tenure at Alabama, he caught 48 passes resulting in racking up 581 yards. Is that enough for Arians? The fact of the matter is, the Buccaneers running back situation is a big question mark and no one knows how he truly feels about it. Maybe Arians truly does believe Jones and Barber can be the one-two punch the team needs. But as stated earlier, if anyone knows how to evaluate a team, it is the two time Coach of the Year winner and Kangol loving head coach, Bucco Bruce Arians.